Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nightline Segment - For Richer or Poorer

For Richer or Poorer

Shared via AddThis

Are you having problems in your marriage with money? Then watch this segment on Nightline where the Hansen family found the help they needed. Are you willing for me to read your question on ABC NEWS NOW next week? If so, then post your questions here and if we select your question to read on air, we'll send you a copy of my new upcoming book, "The Little Book of Big Savings" (Waterbrook, 2009).

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back To School, Baby! - ABC News "Good Money" Show

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Summers are great and kids run free, but by the end of the break, a lot of parents are more than ready to start that back-to-school shopping. Truth be told, I think my "babies" are as ready to get back in the academic groove as I am ready to send them back! (BTW, I still call my 6'5" sons baby and get away with it). But getting ready can be hard on the old bank account if you are not strategic in how you shop. Here are some ideas that I shared on a new ABC News Now show called "Good Money"
1. Layer the Savings –When shopping online, look for sale items where you can also use a coupon or code to save even more on the price, shipping, or by getting free products. With the economy forcing parents to make hard decisions about what's really a necessity, putting a little research into finding extra discounts can add up to big savings.

2. “Double Dipping” – To maximize limited back-to-school shopping dollars, look for items that have good value, but also look to shop at locations where you can have a percentage of that purchase deposited into your child’s college savings account. Sign up for so that a percentage of your purchases will go into your child's 529 plan.

3. Logistical Savings – If your college-bound baby is attending a school out of state, shop at online retailers that also have physical stores in the town where she/he is going to school. Often times, these retailers have online-to-store options where they will send the products to one of their local stores without charging a shipping fee. This option will allow parents and students to shop at their leisure online, take advantage of all the savings options, and have the convenience of going to a local store to pick up the items they ordered.

4. Link-in Friends and Family – Oftentimes, family and friends want to help contribute to a child’s education, but they don’t know how to help – especially in a recession. Grandparents or others can sign up for Upromise as well, for free to have a percentage of their purchases from hundreds of participating merchants deposited in a college savings account.

5. Family Spending Plan – Distinguish between “needs” and “wants” by making financial savings a family affair. Give children a spending plan that shows them how much money they can spend on back-to-school items. Inform children that what they do not spend, they can keep. This added motivation of learning ways to spend less and save more not only saves the family money, but trains children in money matters, making them more adept as young adults.

Wonderfully Yours!
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seven Steps to Thrive and Survive a Recession

Today, many families are facing the same issues that Bob and I faced when we were first married—paying bills, stretching paychecks, and still trying to maintain a reasonable quality of life. We read in the news that homes are being foreclosed upon in unprecedented numbers across the country. Consumer confidence isn’t very high these days, sub prime rates are fluctuating and wages are remaining relatively constant—which usually means more inflation. Let’s face it, the headlines aren’t all that cheerful in the midst of a recession. If most families aren't concerned about losing their homes in uncertain times, they're certainly concerned about rising food and fuel costs, keeping their kids in clothes, or the freedom to go on vacation. But there are answers for those who are willing to do something about it. Here are seven basic tips to help you beware and prepare:

1. Be Diligent: FICOS (Fair Isaac Credit Scores) – Now is the time to improve your FICO as these scores can determine your auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (employers are checking FICOS these days), and whether you pay a security deposit for utilities. If you downsize a home or a vehicle, you’re also going to need to have an excellent FICO to get the best APR rates. To improve your FICO in three easy steps:
· Pay your bills a day early (rather than a day late) by setting up payments online
· Pay $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance on your credit cards, which means you are paying down debt
· Proportionality: make sure that you don’t have more than 50% of the available credit charged on any one card (for example, $3000 charged on a card with a $6,000 limit).

2. Be Smart: Save Money- I get loads of emails every week from families who are cutting hundreds from their household budget by following simple savings tips. From insurance to groceries, there are savvy ways to save at your fingertips. (See the money savings tips on blog). Start to implement these savings and it will create good discipline that will prepare you for the inevitable highs and lows of the economy. Use the money you save to pay down debt and build short term savings. This prepares you and solidifies your financial picture.

3. Beware: Debt Consolidation Companies: With rumors of economic challenge comes an influx of those who want to "help" prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, many of the for profit debt counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load. Instead of going through a for profit company, consider going to the nonprofit, National Consumer Credit Counseling Service found at

4. Be Aware: Refinancing to Pay Debt - As things begin to get tight, you might be tempted to get a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) or refinance in order to pay your consumer debt. This isn’t a good idea if you’re using it to pay consumer debt and you haven’t learned the discipline of living on a budget. This kind of borrowing will only deteriorate the equity in your home and chances are really good you'll be right back in that HUGE boat load of debt by this time next year. The better option is to cut costs, budget, and only use a HELOC for home improvements.

5. Be a "B" Word Person - If you don't have the "B" word as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start budgeting. Set one up with online budgeting tools, found at my web site . Make sure your budget has “fun” figured into it and isn’t so restrictive that it is impossible to follow.

6. Be Careful: Recalculate Your GPS (Gross Personal Savings): When my husband takes a wrong turn, our GPS (who we've named Bitty) says "Recalcuating. Recalculating." In this tip, you are building savings and paying down debt with the previous tips. But you are also recalculating your budget to accommodate the act of actually writing a check to pay debt or to fund your savings account. Otherwise, all the money you save is just flying out the door.

7. Be A Planner With A Purpose - Whenever a "theory" is tested, it must stand up to a "proof" in order to be established as true. You can have all this good stuff on paper, but if you slap down the credit card to pay for a "40% off" killer Marc Jacobs suit, or buy a new boat during summer vacation--and you have consumer debt--then your plan is only a theory. For it to become REAL, you need to make it part of your daily life. This means your family starts to live with the plan and they don’t incur more debt. Your purpose is to live a life with more financial freedom in order to benefit your family and your kids future in the long run.
Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Honeymooners - How to Have a Debt Free Wedding

One of the most invisible women at a wedding is the mother of the groom. I found that being invisible was actually a lot of fun because my son was marrying the right little lady at the right time and in the right way! All eyes should be on the bride--and groom.

The bride wore white and the groom was in black--in the black, to be precise. Our oldest son, Daniel, graduated from college debt free last month with a great FICO score and no consumer debt. This past week he got married and once again, there was no debt associated with the ceremony, reception or honeymoon! In fact the only "red" that this new couple got into was their (paid for) red convertible. And it wasn't because mommy and daddy took care of all the boy's bills, it was because he learned about financial freedom and living within your means. Starting out well in life by paying cash may mean you wait on the things you want to get, but it also means that there's twice the likelihood Daniel and his bride will not divorce since one in two couples cite "money issues" as the reason they separated.

I gave them The New Bride Guide when they got engaged over a year ago and they used it as their wedding planner. Thousands of other couples have done the same and here are just a few of the key tips to have the wedding of your dreams in the reality of today's economy.

  • Live Your Plan - It's important to evaluate how much you can spend by having careful and honest discussions with parents, grandparents or others who will contribute to the wedding. Don't work your plan until you know how much you have to spend. I have a chapter that gives you the step by step guidelines for these discussions. Too many couples make their plans first then struggle with a way to pay for it later which usually means debt.
  • Bargaining - By incorporating five words (is this your best price?) you can save thousands of dollars on everything from invitations, dresses, flowers, photography, the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon! Learn the fine art of bargaining.
  • Honeymoon Savings - Daniel followed the tips on vacations and got a rock bottom price on an incredible honeymoon trip to Ireland. They layered the savings online for other items they needed for the trip and saved as much as 50%.

You don't have to be the son of a financial expert to learn how to have a tasteful debt free wedding. As I told Daniel, it's not about planning a wedding, it's about planning a marriage and starting a marriage debt free is the best gift you can give your bride.

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)